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Polly Umrigar

Meet Polly Umrigar Face to Face as part of CricInfo's video/audio interview series.

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Polly Umrigar
"Against New Zealand ...I was the skipper and I was the first man to get 223. I was very very pleased and very very happy. Somebody making a mark in cricket and it stays there"

[ Complete profile of Polly Umrigar ]

CI: I have with me, an all time great and one who contributed a lot to Indian cricket in all forms and at all levels - Polly Umrigar, who served at various level of cricket as a manager, coach for Indian cricket. Welcome to the show, Sir. Let us have an introduction about your playing days and how you started your cricketing career?

Polly Umrigar: Well, I was in Solapur and I was harldy 12 or 13 years old and went to see the seniors playing. The captain of the side said he was short of a player and asked if I would join the side. I replied in the affirmative and was was keen to get into the game. The position they gave me to field was deep fine leg. The wicket-keeper was not a good one and was leaving the balls. I had to chase the balls to see that it did not go for four. After the match, the captain said "Polly you have a good cricket future. You are a very promising boy." I still remember these words.

Later a gentlemen called Pandey asked me why I was wasting the time and asked me to join in his coaching camp. In Solapur, we had only matting wickets and we had two sessionsm for three hours each. They taught how to bowl the inswinger, outswinger and so on. They made a circle in that matting and asked us to bowl in the circle and would have to count it by ball by ball. That helped me to maintain the length when I was playing Ranji and national and higher levels.

Even when we were batting, a six feet tall man - one Mr. Singh bowled with the new ball from few steps. During those time we didn't have protection like helmet and thigh pads. So many times I have been hit on my arms and thighs. Believe it or not certain times when I was moving a little bit, our coach who stood behind the nets, asked me not to move. Really they grilled me a lot.

As my father was transferred to Bombay from Solapur, I came to Bombay. After joining school, I was unable to play for them because when you come from outside you couldn't play for the first year. Hence I could not get a chance in the city matches also. After I joined St. Xavier's College, one of our coaches Mr. Bhagadur Kapadia saw me and he asked me to play for his club. He never disturbed my batting style for otherwise you would have seen a different Polly Umrigar. Clubs were approaching me and I was playing for bigger clubs to play bigger matches. In my opinion, coaches play a vital role for any cricketer. [Video | Audio]

CI: Coming to your cricketing area, when you made your debut against West Indies in 1948-49, you put on 70 odd runs with Dattu Phadkar that too when India was in great trouble. What was that experience like?

PU: Before answering that question, I would like to say something about the way how I got into the side. There was one All India University match against the touring West Indies side and I got 130 runs in that match. The man who came into the dressing room was none other than (George) Headley. He was pleased and told me that "You have wonderful cricket in you. Keep it up." To get something like this from a top man was very very encouraging for me. I was selected for the Delhi Test where I was in the fourteen but couldn't get a chance to play. In the next Test in Bombay which was my home ground, I was selected in the eleven. With India in deep trouble, Phadkar asked me not to go for shots and asked me to stay until lunch. If I remember correctly, I scored 30 not out till lunch and we pulled India out of danger. It was the first time in Test cricket when I felt that I could also achieve something in the game. [Video | Audio]

[Test Debut] [DG Phadkar]

CI: The match against England in Madras, when you scored 130 not out in the 1951-52 series which in fact that was the first ever Test win for India. What was your experience?

PU: I was in the fourteen. Hemu Adhikari met with an accident and he was not able to play. So, the skipper said "You are in the side". I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I sort of stuck over there and got 130 not out. Not only that we also won our first Test match. [Video | Audio]

[HR Adhikari] Polly Umrigar's First Century: [Match Scorecard]

CI: What was your feeling when you became a first Indian to score a double hundred in Test cricket against Kiwis in Bombay?

PU: Against New Zealand ...I was the skipper and I was the first man to get 223. I was very very pleased and very very happy. Somebody making a mark in cricket and it stays there. [Video | Audio]

Polly Umrigar's first Double Century: [Match Scorecard]

CI: Tell us something about your experiences while playing for India?

PU: Well, apart from cricket I play hockey and football too. During my time, when I was leading or playing for Bombay, we had a very strong batting side and would get a minimum of 500 runs. That solidity was there in the batting, which sort of made Bombay go and win the national championship final so many times. After I settled in Bombay, so many clubs were approaching me to play for them. The first entry I made in a big match was at the Pentangular which was played in 1944-45 and 1945-46 as an off spinner. After the Pentangular was stopped I started playing Ranji in successful fashion till my retirement.

Here I would like to add something about my Test experience especially against Pakistan in Delhi in 1961. I have not been captain after the Madras incident. When Nari Contractor was injured, I was standing in the slips and watching Hanif Mohammed batting. He seemed to be a little bit shaky against the movement of the ball. If I remember correctly that time Ramakant Desi and Bapu Nadkarni were bowling. In fact Bapu was admired by the great Sobers. Hence the next morning, I called Bapu and told him he was so stingy of giving away the runs. But try and get wickets. Soon I called Bapu to bowl and follow my advice. We almost won the match. Fazal Mahmood was not watching the game. He was sitting in the corner. In the evening, he said `Thank God, Polly is not captain of India'. In the Test match against MCC at Calcutta the next season, I remember again Nari got injured and I took over the captaincy. When Barrington was batting I asked Ramakant to bowl short. Barrington hooked and Durrani took a good catch. After I left the ground, people asked me come to the centre for getting an ovation. Really these things are long remembered. When I was in good form with both bat and ball I had planned to retire. [Video | Audio]

Bombay Pentangular Tourney, 1944-45: [Scorecard]

[VM Merchant | DG Phadkar | Hanif Mohammad | RB Desai | RG Nadkarni]

CI: How did you use your earlier experience in the Bombay side?

PU: When I was leading or playing for Bombay, we had a good batting, bowling and fielding side. Normally we always tried to make the batsmen tired for he will get out easily. On the morning, we used to wish our captain by going to his room and in the evening both teams would sit together for a chat. But the next morning we were very serious about the game. This is how we developed the team spirit. [Video | Audio]

CI: After you stopped playing cricket were you involved closely with any cricketing activities?

PU: After 1962, I stopped playing and entered into administration, as a selector of the Bombay Cricket Association (MCA) and then I became the manager of the Indian team. I was also in the managing committee of the association, before becoming the honorary joint secretary of the MCA. Later, when Mr Wankhede approached me for building a stadium, I was involved in the building of the Wankhede stadium and spent almost every day from nine to nine for it. [Video | Audio]

[Mumbai Cricket Association]

CI: Well Sir... Can you tell us about your book on coaching. How does it work for youngesters regarding coaching and batting?

PU: I have written it in a simple format and gave [the] book to all the schools, all the associations even outside the Board. I just want to give something back to the game, to the younger generation. This success has tempted me to bring another book on preparation of pitches. [Video | Audio]

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